Let Your Characters Run The Show

When it comes to creating a new story, my process begins with a character. Something puts that first spark of life into my mind – something I saw or heard throughout the day, a movie or TV show, waking up with it already brewing in my mind, you know – and he (or she) becomes the basis of my new story. A new character will occupy my mind to the exclusion of all else for days on end while my brain unravels all of his secrets – his back story, his relationship to his family, his favorite things, what makes him tick, personality, style, quirks, the car he drives, what he wants out of life… it never ends. I can tell you what any one of my characters would do in any given situation; often I know them better than I know myself.

Once they are given life and free reign to roam about in my mind as they please, they start telling me what they want to do. I can argue all I want, but they always win. They have to, or my story fails.

For example ~ with the story I’m working on now, at first I intended it to be more of a tender, shy meeting between my two leading men – Charlie and Jeff. I’m happily plugging away at my laptop, halfway through my outline, when Charlie decides to make demands.

Charlie: “You know boss, I gotta tell ya… this plot sucks. I’m bored. Jeff’s boring. I need a guy who’s heroic! Someone dreamy! I want to be rescued, swept off my feet!”

B: “Ok, Charlie. I’m listening. Tell me how this should go.”

And he did. He decided he wanted to try skiing this holiday season, so off to a ski lodge he went. He wanted Jeff to swoop in and rescue him from an otherwise grim skiing accident, so I threw him off a ledge and broke his arm. He needed their relationship to start out fast and furious… then backtrack a bit to fill in the more tender, romantic stuff.

B: “Yeah, I think we can do that.”

Charlie: “Hey, can I be Australian, too?”

(/facepalm)

Let your characters tell your story. They know what they’re doing.

~B

–> For you writers out there ~ how do you get your story started? Where does that first spark of an idea come from? <–

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